Struggles between the new and old are ingrained in the human experience. Magic players see this arise in the form of new cards with each set released for the game. Power level, rarity, creature types, every new card brings up comparisons to the old and conflicts arise in their evaluation.
But what of the reprints? Functionally identical in the player’s hands, they nonetheless introduce new elements to the game with their updated illustrations. Classic images envisioned through the eyes of a new artist come out entirely different, yet whether improvement is achieved is up to the viewer.
Does the original art stand the test of time, or do new images take up the banner of our imagination?
The eternal struggle continues… it’s the Reprint Rumble: Ixalan!
Classic Genius vs. New Hotness, with new horizons upon us, only the best will hit gold!
What I love about the new Air Elemental art is that takes an iconic Magic card and puts it in a Mesoamerican context.
There are so many great details. The jade totem which summons the elemental is right in its the center, and, if you scan upwards, you’ll notice the elemental has a face. The way that the palm trees bend evokes the destructive force of a hurricane. The left side of the sky is much more dark and foreboding than the right, implying that the fun is just getting started. There’s nothing wrong with the previous printings of Air Elemental, but none of the others get as much right as this one.
The new Cancel art is way too cluttered for my taste. The swirling aether draws attention away from the spell’s actual effect. Plus, it’s hard to discern the pirates’ expressions which is one of my favorite parts of counterspells (see: the original art for Counterspell which could easily have been called Magical Impotence).
Unfortunately, the past iterations of Cancel haven’t been that great either, so I’m going to stick with the Magic Player Rewards printing.
It doesn’t feel like there’s much cobbling going on in the Ixalan art. The wings look stitched or patchwork; they’re missing the rough and tumble quality that I love about the original Innistrad art.
I feel like this is the first time that Demolish has been printed, showing the full power that the card implies. John Avon’s Zendikar rendition looks great but is a bit too static. Kaladesh’s gremlin is cute; it reminds me of a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, but it doesn’t really feel like a demolition. A dinosaur crushing a shrine with total abandon? Now that’s what I’m talking about!
The idea of erasing magical inscriptions is interesting, and I enjoy the earthen colors that Kieryluk uses in the Ixalan reprint. Plus, I love the detail on the tribesman’s armor.
Overall, the art has a nice, understated feel which is fitting since the card itself isn’t that powerful. That sort of contrast is important since not every spell in Magic can be a Star of Extinction epic event.
While the new art is great, I think that the original image is just so much more evocative and fitting of the name. Dinos in art are persuasive, but the colors and design of the Jon Foster image are hard to beat.
The sea of tangled masts in the new art is just excellent. The original hits many of the same themes, but doesn't go far enough.
Both pieces are fine. I don’t have a strong preference for either. I do, however, enjoy how the Shadow over Innistrad art is from the perspective of a monster who’s gonna get got.
Graciano’s new rendition of Duress is one of my favorite pieces in Magic period. The attention to detail on the subject is breathtaking. The bloodshot eyes, the reddened knuckles, the frayed hair. It’s all perfect.
What puts this head and shoulders above the other printings is that it depicts a non-fantasy situation. I’m always a layer removed when I see a character being magically tortured. There’s no magic here; it’s just someone lost at sea, alone forever. That’s what makes it so powerful.
I want to commend the Wizards creative team and Graciano. It would have been so easy to just have a pair of pirates intimidate a landlubber, but instead we got this gorgeous and harrowing painting. It’s pieces like this that bring Magic’s art to the next level.
(As an added bonus, the castaway looks vaguely like my younger brother, so I get double the schadenfreude when I Duress him.)
Neither piece really depicts favorable winds; they both just show fantasy creatures flying. You could retitle the pieces “Knot of Coatls” and “Flock of Gryffs” respectively and not lose anything. Flying snakes are objectively cooler than gryffs (Why do you think there hasn’t been Gryffs on a Plane?), so Ixalan wins this round.
Ok, first question: Why is there a both in that mountain?
I think I understand what they were going for with the Ixalan art, but putting a boat all the way up there just breaks my brain. How did it get up there? If it's from an ice age, how did it not rot away? Very confusing.
The classic art, by comparison, is quite straightforward. It's basically The Wall from Game of Thrones. The perspective is executed perfectly and the color palette is spot on. Easy win for Classic Genius.
Minguez’s original has this great dynamism that just isn’t there in the Ixalan reprint. The hijacker’s scarf whips in the wind and the vehicle’s blades whirl perilously beneath him. By comparison, the new art focuses too much on the minotaur, and not enough on the actual hijacking.
Players have been demanding Lightning Strike in Standard for over a year, and it’s finally returned. Unfortunately, the art doesn’t reflect the occasion.
Nameless Goblin 476 getting zapped doesn’t really compare to Keranos’ hand reaching out from the heavens to exact divine revenge on an enemy (or a mana dork). I like how Spearing uses muted colors to craft a strong contrast to the bolt itself, but the piece just doesn’t have enough oomph. It feels more like a Shock than a Strike.
Echoing my earlier comments about Air Elemental, I like how the new version of Mark of the Vampire takes an old concept and tries something new. The idea that transforming into a vampire is a spiritual struggle is totally novel, and the new art reflects that well.
Howe and Spearing’s interpretations of Opt are both excellent. Howe’s version in 2000 has a comic book style that I wish Magic used more nowadays. It actually reminds me of Brett Helquist’s illustrations for A Series of Unfortunate Events.
On the other hand, Spearing’s take shows a little more of Ixalan’s personality. You can a full landscape in the background, complete with dinosaurs and waterfalls. That sense of exploration is integral to the plane and Opt incorporates it so well that edges out the competition.
As an aside, it’s cool that both pieces of art flavorfully fit Opt’s use at different points in the game. Players can use it early game to smooth out their draws akin to using a spyglass to chart a course. Or, late game, you can cast it to dig deeper and find an answer before the Phyrexians gobble you up.
While I absolutely LOVE the original art, in the end it's more a painting of a tree than a crag. The new art has roots galore and hits that craggy feeling to a much better degree. Also, dinosaurs.
Magic doesn’t get enough goofy pieces anymore, and Ixalan’s Rummaging Goblin scratches that itch. One goblin seems to have gotten themselves stuck in someone’s coat, and the other is obviously about to recite Hamlet’s “Alas, poor Yorick” monologue. The original Magic 2013 printing might be a bit more nuanced, but Ixalan’s version gets the win thanks to its fun factor.
I prefer the deep green and blue hues of Amundsen’s Ixalan reprint to Palacios’ steely Mirrodin version. They’re both strong pieces, but I prefer the lightly colored, old school fantasy of Ixalan.
The new version of Spell Pierce has a similar concept as the Amonkhet Invocation but is a bit less flashy. I certainly like it, but it just feels too much like a dialed down version of Meehan’s iteration.
Each image is successfully an illustration of stone in a quarry, but in the end I gave the edge to Noah and his beautiful clouds.
Dimitar did a high quality job with his forest of overgrown Irises, but they don't really hold a candle to Jason's mega sun lotus.
This is a real toss-up for me; there are things to appreciate in both pieces. I absolutely love the color palate in Kasper’s original, but the juxtaposition of the goblin and Eldrazi seems to say “duel to the death” rather than “attack the weak point for massive damage.”
That’s what Izzy’s iteration gets so right. Riding a dinosaur into battle doesn’t help you if your head is about to be lopped off. Since Izzy’s piece aligns better with the card’s function, I’ll give it to Ixalan.
Whether it’s the metaphysical shores of Theros, the ones newly formed in Kozilek’s wake or the exciting frontiers in Ixalan, each version of Unknown Shores reflects its host plane well. I personally like the one from Oath of the Gatewatch the most because it was thematically repurposed in an interesting way. However, there’s certainly an argument to be made for each.
Each of the three classic images are very nice, but I don't think the stream was really captured correctly until this new art for Ixalan. The Shadows over Innistrad and Amonkhet artworks look more like rivers and the Kaladesh version appears to be more of a waterfall feeding a pool. The new art has the movement and flow that I would expect from a stream, and wins the final round.
While we here at OMA score it a 14-10 win for New Hotness, we won’t know the eventual winner until we hear from you so vote early, vote often for your favorite art!
Remember that every piece of art should be celebrated and appreciated. The artists, art directors, and everyone involved in the creative team all bring the game to life and their contributions should never go unnoticed.
Each set provides a new chance to tell a story and capture the imagination of the players. Thanks go out to everyone involved in this creative process and I look forward to seeing the contestants for the next Reprint Rumble.
Until next time!